My Irish Adventure Part II

On Sunday our last day, Me and some friends that I made on the trip went horseback riding in Ireland. It was rather cold and we didn’t have any gloves so my hands were freezing. Other than that though we went through Killarney National park and that was incredibly beautiful. I had a wonderful time and my horse was named Major.

Once that was over, we made our way to Blarney Castle. At this point we were all tired and miserable and didn’t really want to do anything. And by “we” I mean everyone. The whole bus had this melancholy atmosphere around it. Though once we arrived at Blarney Castle we got over our stupor and made our way to go kiss the Blarney Stone. The wait took forever, and I am glad we got there when we did because once I got down to the beginning of the queue it was incredibly long. A lot longer than when I got in queue in the first place.

After that, we just wandered the grounds a bit and went into the poison garden. It wasn’t very special mostly because at this time nothing was blooming and it was quite cold. So as much as I can say I now kissed the Blarney Stone, it just wasn’t all that special. It was too commercialized and it felt like an assembly line. All I could hear was “next…next….next…next”. Just made the experience quite dull and manufactured. But hey… I kissed the Blarney Stone.

So finally after about two and a half hours of riding on the bus we got dropped off at the airport. Now our flight wasn’t until that next day at 6:25 am and we got to the airport in Dublin about 7:00pm the night before. Which was fine, my friend and I planned to have a fun adventure while we pulled an all nighter. I got a pack of Irish playing cards and we just played card games most of the night. Luckily, there was a 24 hour McDonald right by coffee and french fries were definitely bought with frequency.

Finally, we got to go through the gate and the most embarrassing part is we got a Starbucks and right as I get it. I get a nosebleed. Right in the middle of the airport. So of course there weren’t bathrooms close by so I quickly grabbed some napkins and ran to where I noticed a bathroom before. Yep… highlight of my morning when I am tired and haven’t had my coffee yet.

The trip finally comes to a close and made it back safe and sound. I slept all day that Monday. It felt great.

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My Irish Adventure

Because I was so late to my last post I figured I will talk about what has been going on between my highlands trip and Ireland. If you don’t really care and would like to just see pictures or want to know how my trip to Ireland went… just scroll down. I made it easy to find if you’d prefer to just skip ahead.

Let’s talk school. It has been going alright. The week I got back I had to finish two papers because they were due on the 11th of March. Needless to say… I didn’t really have a good start on either of them. However, I did get pretty good grades so procrastination works. Just kidding…

Next big thing that happened before Spring Break was the Ballet. I went to Coppellia. It is a ballet about this guy who is going to get married to this girl. Except another girl catches his eye briefly. Then a wizard guy tries to use his magic to make the guy fall in love with his toy daughter. If he falls in love than it will like use up his life so that the toy daughter can become a real person. Needless to say, this doesn’t happen and they get married in the end. Much better than the Opera I went to.

The next week begins Spring Holiday and I was sure not ready and couldn’t contemplate that I would be in Ireland soon. It didn’t even hit me until I started packing the night before. I was to be in Ireland. I got pretty excited after that.

Ireland Adventure                                                                                                   

So I went to Ireland last week and it was, to sum it up in one word, Miserable. Now that isn’t to say I didn’t have fun, quite the contrary. But it could have been so much better.

I left Thursday, the 21st of March. I actually left quite early because I have a weird thing about being on time or early. When we (my friend Melissa and I) got to the airport it was about 3 hours early, which was quite early considering that RyanAir doesn’t check people in until 2 hours before the flight. So what did we do? That’s right… we got coffee. Sat there for a while and finally started to make our way through the airport.

Once in Dublin, we got a bus to our hostel. Unfortunately it was about 6 euros for the ride… which is awful, but I guess what can you expect from an airport shuttle. Oh and it was raining which made it even better. On the bright side though the Irish accents were awesome.

Once at the hostel, I pretty much just went to bed right away. It was a long day and we had to get up before 8am. Finally we started to have fun once we all loaded onto the shuttle. We saw some interesting places. It was rather rainy out though so it could have been better. We saw an abbey and a castle. I was quite excited to begin my adventure in Ireland!

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So, here is a fun story. On our way to Galway, we kind of lost a tire. I was by the window seat and just staring outside the window and all of a sudden there is this wheel that is rolling along the road along with the bus. It felt like a dream and I look back at my friend Michael who was in the seat directly behind me and gave him a look like… Did that just happen? So yes, our tire popped off and started rolling down the road beside us. We had to stop the bus and wait for about 45 minutes until a replacement arrived.

Once we finally got into Dublin, we learned that we got upgraded to a Bed and Breakfast because the Hostel overbooked people and couldn’t fit us. That was really nice. That night, all of us on the tour went out for a pub crawl. That was rather fun, because we ate at the pub and because we did the crawl I think got 10% off the meal. We also got a free drink at each place we went to.

The night then came to a close and the next day, Saturday, was the best part of the trip. This day, we saw the baby cliffs and the Cliffs of Moher. It was actually awful weather wise. Not raining but just really overcast and cold. The weird part though is right when we got to the baby cliffs the sun came out and it was beautiful. We spent a while around there and you could get dangerously close to the edge. It was my favorite part… yes the baby cliffs I thought were better than the Cliffs of Moher.

Now onto the cliffs of Moher… Not that special. I kind of sound like a drag but I mean, they were cool and all. And quite large but that was it. It is really just the sheer size of them that makes them special.

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So didn’t do too much after the Cliffs of Moher. This trip was definitely not as good as the Highlands trip, at least the touring company. We did make our way to Killarney which was quite small but has this national park that is amazing. When we got to our Hostel it was pretty sketchy since the office was a small table inside the kitchen. Regardless, a few of us went around the town a while and then went out to eat. Since I ate at the hostel, I just went along for the discussion and the cocktails.

I met some awesome people on my journey. There was a New Zealander, two Austrailians, 4 Germans (2 and 2), 2 French, and some Americans (The ones who aren’t with us… that nobody bothered talking to).  I even have a few of them on facebook.

So we went out to a club and danced and it was so much fun. Talked with the 2 Austrailians most of the night (Didn’t really talk to them before like I did the others) but then when the dancing started we all got into our little Paddywagon group)

Seems like enough for now. Will Get in a Part 2 soon. 

The Highlands

So… sorry for my really really late post. I was rather busy with a few essays. I am also going to try and format it a little differently. If you guys like it this way let me know and I will keep doing it! Going to try to incorporate the photos into main text instead of slapping them all at the end. Gives a bit more context for each one in my opinion. Also I went to the highlands a month ago so this post is SOOOOO late and I am sorry.

This weekend was one of the most fantastic adventures I have ever been on. There is only one regret that made this weekend a shame, and that was the amount of time we spent at each place. To rewind a bit as to what I am talking about… I was able to go to the highlands this weekend for a wonderful adventure. My housemates and I went on a tour called MacBackPackers and we were able to see a lot of the highlands. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

I knew the highlands were incredible, but I never imagined how spectacular and breathtaking they actually are. The crazy thing is barely anyone lives there, which to me is insane since who wouldn’t want to be there? Of course, there are reasons as to why but for a moment let’s just forget those. We started the drive from Edinburgh up the east coast of Scotland (which does not compare to the west coast by the way), and made our way to a little town called Dunkeld (future home right here, haha). There was a great little church and it was rather neat.

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After Dunkeld, which as amazing as there were high hills surrounding the town, we went North and made our way to Inverness. On the way we got to stop by a Scotch Whisky Distillery and had a free drink of Whisky. We learned about the process and how they sit in barrels for years on end to soak up flavour.

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Moving on, we didn’t actually get to stop in Inverness (The only city in the highlands apparently) but we did get to stop at the Loch Ness. Here it was rather cold and we could have taken a dip into the loch if we wanted. Surprisingly there were a lot who did. I was not one of them because I didn’t want to be miserable for the rest of the day and I mean the only reason for it is to have the right to say “Oh man, I got to swim in Loch Ness!” It would really be for bragging rights… which I am fine without. I mean I think living in Scotland for 3 months is enough bragging rights.

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After the Lake, which I did put my hand in, it was off to the Isle of Skye. We made a few little stops along the way for toilets and such but the bulk of the journey now was to drive. The sad part is that we made it to this incredible little mountain range right as the sun was setting so we didn’t get to see all of the glory but here are some of what was captured before it became too dark.

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We finally made it to Skye when full night was upon us. We stayed at this village called Kyleakin (I guess it is pronounced “Ky-loch-in” from how our tour guide was saying it). It was a small village but had a beach and a ruined castle which we explored our second night there. We went to eat at this place called Saucy Mary’s, which is a pub and it had the best haddock and chips.

The next day was wonderous. We saw the Faerie Glen! It was an amazing view and I loved every minute of it. Our guide told us that we cannot disturb the faeries so we mustn’t whistle, put our hands in our pockets, or swear as it would offend the fae. It felt magical. We heard a lot of stories about faeries that day and we stuck our heads in a river because it would bless us with anti-aging properties.

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After the Faerie Glen, we went and did some hiking. I was pumped because we would actually get to get off the buss for more than like half an hour. We got a little lost on the hike because our guide gave us pretty vague instructions and he then drove around to the end to pick us up. This meant we were all by ourselves and we didn’t all stay together so that made things worse. Regardless of us getting lost and arguing about it at the end before that was incredible. It felt so high and we were up in the clouds so it felt incredibly humid and I wanted to take everything off since my clothes were clinging onto me.

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So that was our big adventure for the day. We did get to go to a waterfall and drink from it because it was supposed to have special powers of giving yourself 7 years of good… well I’ll let you be creative and come up with something to fill in there ;p

So the next day was sort of the best day even though we had to head back. We stopped at Eilean Donan for a bit to take some photos and I got some good ones if I do say so myself.

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Then we just headed on home and we didn’t really stop a whole lot along the way besides toilet breaks and what not. Though we did stop in Glencoe briefly to ‘hike’. I use the term loosely because we just walked a long a path for about 10 minutes before we all headed back into the bus. It was a great view, however.

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We then went to Doune Castle. This castle has been featured in a few movies. You might know it from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The worst part was that it smelled awful. It felt like the entire grounds was covered in manure. Except that this was renk and not normal smelling. Other than trying to not breathe the entire time, it was rather neat.

Lastly before heading home, we stopped in Stirling to climb up the Wallace Monument. It was quite the trek to get up that hill. Quite glad that downhill was much much better. It was a neat building but we didn’t stay too long and then we went home right after. We were all pretty glad, it was a tiresome weekend.

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A Day in Glasgow

This last Friday, I had to chance to go to Glasgow with my housemates. I had a mix of apprehension and excitement. It was a chance to see the other great city of Scotland, yet would it compare to Edinburgh? The short answer is no, but I’ll get to that later.

The bus ride was fun as I am perfectly content on car trips. As I am accustomed to 3 hours or more on car rides, it was quite a shock that we made it to Glasgow in little under an hour. The first place we went to was the Celtic Stadium. It was Amazing. It was the first sports center that I have been to of this scale before. I was completely overwhelmed at how massive the stadium was. We even had the chance to sit in the seats that the players would sit in at a game. I kind of wish that I would have gone to the Celtic Match today, but it was a weekend for homework, or… rather that was the plan anyway.

So, coming into the city was a great big disappointment because it just did not have the flair and skyline of Edinburgh. It actually looked rather bland and ugly to be honest. It did grow on me a bit throughout the day but only by a little. Downtown was the only good part of it, scenic-wise.

After the stadium, we went to the The Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel. It was a wee bit small, but it had an incredible array of different types of trains as well as sail boats. After looking at almost all the stuff we had, I was dying for some coffee. Luckily, they had a cafe inside the museum and I partook in a Cappuccino. Unfortunately, the first sip resulted in the burning of my tongue and so I had to wait at one of the tables in the museum for the pain to subside. As you can imagine, eating or drinking anything thereafter was quite the opposite of enjoyable.

Next, we headed over to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which I must admit was Extraordinary! Not only was everything in there was fantastic, the whole of the building was a complete work of art. I have never experienced a museum like it. We went all over the museum. It wasn’t particularly large but there was a lot of variety in the exhibits. My favorite had to be a period they had this room and inside a glass box there was a multitude of warriors made of twisted metal. It was a great find for sure.

We did have free time to roam the city for a while, about two hours. It wasn’t a whole lot of time but it did make up a little from the first impression I had of the city. Downtown, they have a huge square and then a politcal building that goes up to the square. The building had that old feel of Edinburgh. The thing about Edinburgh  compared to Glasgow is that while Glasgow has neat old buildings they are sparse within in the city and the other building are just really ugly. In Edinburgh, however, the old buildings are everywhere and where they are not, those buildings look new and modern.

Next to the square, was a shopping center that kind of reminded me of the Louvre. By that I mean it had glass windows and walls and it was pyramidal shaped… The St. Enoch Centre. Went with some friends there and it wasn’t bad. Kind of done with malls, unless of course I actually plan on shopping there. I did buy a sweater though for not too bad a price.

Overall, it was a fun day. Not my favorite city, Edinburgh is where my heart lies, but it was quite enjoyable. Until next time!

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A Walk in the Woods

Before we begin, I must warn you that this post will be a wee bit long. A Doozy really.

I finally got around to exploring a little bit of the Estate of the Dalkeith House. It is really large. I didn’t even touch the bulk of the estate and have more to do in regards to walking. In short, it is beautiful. It has forests, a large grassy field, a stables, and more. There are a lot of trails and it is perfect for walking or running down. I still think it is incredible that I get to live here for 3 months. It still gets to me and I don’t want to leave. There is no denying it will be a very sad day come May 11th when I have to go back to America.

Last Friday, Myself and two others got to spend time with our host mother. She is such a sweet lady and I am so glad I got paired with her. She took all three of us on a drive down to Peebles. It is a small town in the north of the borders. During the car ride I got to see the lowlands proper. They are amazing and I hear they compare nothing to the highlands. That astounds me. I guess living in Wisconsin where everything is mostly flat will make any decent sized hill/small mountain look that much more incredible. I saw dozens upon dozens of sheep everywhere as well. Just roaming. I couldn’t believe it. Not even cows have that much roam. Some were very close to the road as well. I remember during the car ride that I couldn’t help but feel inspired and amazed and dazzled all at once. It was such a wonderful feeling to have. I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing it everyday for the rest of my life.

Once we arrived in Peebles, we walked around. It was a nice cozy town that had a reasonably sized church with a clock tower and some pretty good architecture. It didn’t really feel any different from a normal small town back in the United States. Besides the fact that there are actual people on the sidewalks at all times instead of in a car. That is everywhere here though. We walked along the river and it was incredible. It isn’t even the fact that I am in Scotland, it is just that I have never even done this kind of thing before.

On our way back from Peebles we took a different route and stopped along in another town to get Ice Cream. It was FANTASTIC. It was made with fresh milk and it just doesn’t even compare to back home. It was well worth it to have stopped there. A small village called Innerleithen.

After our little road trip, which took about 3-4 hours, we went back to Sheila’s house, our host mum. She has a nice little quaint house in a town called Bonnyrigg. It is only a few miles from Dalkeith. Her granddaughter, Chloe, was there and we all had a nice chat. She made us tea and we ate biscuits. I felt so proper because it was a stereotype come true. It was really good tea as well.

It was then time for Sheila to pick up one of her past host children and bring him to dinner, which left the three of us and Chloe. We had a great time at dinner. We had this chicken soup type meal but it was rather thick and we poured it on a bed of rice. It was so fantastic. We even had wine for dinner as well. Once everything was picked up and put in the dishwasher, it was time for pancakes. We got to flip pancakes without a spatula. It was crazy and luckily I flipped mine without any accidents. We had such a fun time laughing and eating our pancakes. After another chat in the living room, we got taken back to the Dalkeith House. I had such an incredible time to really experience and spend time with an actual local.

The next day, most everyone was out of the house because it was an extended weekend and almost all of them went off on trips. Some people went to Paris, London, St. Andrews, Ireland. It left about six of us in the house. It felt like a ghost town but I quickly adjusted and was happy for alone time. I decided to go to a movie. It was quite a different experience than something in the states. Not sure if it was just the specific theatre I went to, but you didn’t have to buy your ticket before you went to buy concessions. You only needed to hand your ticket over once you were going to go into the actual theatre. The previews were great but they had no warning about turning off cell phones. It only had don’t pirate this movie warnings. Otherwise most everything was the same. At no time did I feel confused or unsure of what to do, though.

Later that night I went to a Ceilidh. It is a party/dance. With specific dances of course. It was another cultural experience so I was all for going. It turned out really fun. At first, I felt a wee out of place because my small group of 4 were the only people our age. The rest were middle age or up or small children. Once the dancing started, I joined it with enthusiasm and learned much on how the dances go. It was rather exhausting, however. I was quite impressed with all the seniors able to last for so long. Sometimes the dances would go on for six minutes or more. May not seem a lot but when constantly dancing it begins to wear you down. It was a lot of fun but by about 10:00pm I was done. No way I could dance anymore. Even the chill of the night air was not enough to cool me down. I regret nothing.

Sunday, I just spent most of my time doing homework and watching a show called Ripper Street. It is rather good. It is like Sherlock Holmes, a crime drama set in London right after the time of Jack the Ripper.

Monday, was a busy day. Met a friend in town and went to the Scottish National Museum. I really like going to history museums like this one. It lets one learn a lot about the past and it is mostly interesting things. It also creates a sense of bewilderment when you realize that the object behind a case is hundreds of years old. There was a ton of stuff to see at the museum. A lot about Scottish clans, a geological display, an Indonesia exhibit, and even animals. They had a T-Rex skeleton there! It was a fantastic day.

Finally, yesterday. I got to go to a high school dance concert. Sheila picked us up and took us to Chloe’s high school. It was quite similar to ours. Except for the greatest thing ever. Their principles are really called headmasters and they have houses AND they have Prefects. I was ecstatic. The dancing was pretty alright. The second half was a lot better than the first one, but all songs were good choices. During the break, hot tea and biscuits were served. It is fun to see those things. During the second half, they had a highland dance performance. That was spectacular! I loved it so much.

So that is all I wrote. Sorry for the essay length to this post. I just get so busy doing all of this stuff that It is hard for me to find the time to actually write it all down. This Friday I take a trip to Glasgow, so that will be quite fun I am sure. Til next time!

 

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An Exploration of Greatness

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Classes went really well for the week and I really like all of them. Didn’t get much homework and so I had a lot of free time that I spent well. Life in Scotland isn’t too different from America. I mean besides the fact that Mountain Dew doesn’t really seem to exist here and that a lot of food is a different brand or they don’t have something all together. It isn’t too bad, though, I feel frustrated at times when I am really craving something but they don’t have it. Except that, I am adjusting really well and feel that I can get used to my 3 months here. I know I will be quite upset already when I leave. I love everything about Scotland so far and have barely touched the surface.

This past Friday I went to Arthur’s Seat. A Giant hill/mountain thing that you can hike up. It is right next to Edinburgh. I was so excited to see the scenery and finally get out to do some hiking. It was Incredible! I had a lot of fun. I did realize though how out of shape I am, but in my defense, there were some really really steep parts. I went by myself, not that I didn’t have a group to go with, but it felt more self discovery that way. No talking to anyone, just taking in the full beauty and thinking to myself really helped De-stress myself from all of this change. Once I finally reached the top I loved it. I felt such a sense of accomplishment and relief that I finally made it. It was pretty cold and windy though. I met up with the rest of my group because we all made it up at the same time. (There are many many paths to get to the top).

I soon left with a friend and headed down to the “tourist area” of Edinburgh and tried to go shopping. I actually did find a nice sweatshirt for 10 pounds on Thursday at this awesome store called Primark. I was on the lookout for a coin pouch (you get a lot of one pound coins since they don’t make notes for that much) and a celtic bracelet. I found a bought the latter but it is pretty cheap and broke once on me.

I got to meet my host mom this Saturday. She is adorable. She has 3 grandchildren I believe and she is taking me on a drive next Friday and then eating dinner at her house. I think it will be a great experience to really ask questions about Scottish culture as well and to get to know a real local. I am really excited for this opportunity.

Here at last

Sorry about the no posts in a while, but I have been crazy busy. So because of this, the post will most likely be a long one. Short story, I made it to Scotland safely. The flight situation did change on me because of delays but I eventually figured everything out in a timely fashion and while I arrived later into Edinburgh than intended, it was only about 6 hours later. I did have to find my own transportation from the airport to Dalkeith. I took a series of buses, which was much cheaper than a taxi, and eventually got in around 4pm.

Scotland is a wondrous country. I have only been here for 5 days and I still cannot even fathom I am out of America. I am completely amazed. I started out Friday doing some orientation meetings but we got out to explore Edinburgh by about 1pm. We all separated into groups and saw the Edinburgh Castle. Along the way to the castle we took a route down the Royal Mile, or High Street, this was really my first experience in the city and it was an incredible sight. There are just so many amazing shops and churches and the architecture is a mixture of Gothic and Classical. Since this was the tourist section of the city it was no surprise how many Cashmere stores there were. Oh and if you didn’t know already, Cashmere is certainly not cheap. 80 pounds for a sweater, sometimes even for just a scarf.

Finally we reach the castle, which is located at the end of High Street, and we begin to explore it. It is basically many museums housing different items like a memorial for those lost in the wars and a militaristic museum housed in the barracks. Inside one of the museums we learned about the royalty and some of the Monarchs, mainly the Queen of Scots. This was also where the crown jewels were located. I didn’t get to see all of the castle, however, since it was getting a little late and my group and I wanted to explore the rest of the city while we could.

The city, for the little bit that we saw, was amazing. We only really got a chance to see the city center, which is where all the excitement is. Not all the excitement of course but I would compare it to like downtown Madison. Seeing this city really for the first time was evident I wasn’t in the U.S. anymore. It is so different and you can tell it is steeped in culture and tradition. Just thinking that the buildings were there long before the United states was it’s own country is breathtaking.

We ate at this little place in Dalkeith, where I am living for these 3 months, and it was very good. My group of 5 and I was recommended it by a cashier at a gift shop in the Edinburgh castle. We weren’t disappointed. Very reasonable price too and it came out as fast as about when you order at Noodles back in the U.S. A bit of a cultural difference is you don’t tip here. It just isn’t really done.

On Saturday, more orientation stuff for a few hours but then we were all split up into our clans, the people we have dinner duty with, and went out to Edinburgh again for a Scavenger hunt. My clan is made up of some really awesome people. We were there for around 8 hours just walking around. I was so exhausted by the end of it and was incredibly sore. I mention this because I would do it all over again. This city is spectacular and I would gladly be sore and exhausted to experience it like I did that day again. We were the last group to get back though, which was a bit disheartening until we learned we were like the only group to actually really do the scavenger hunt. I am really glad we got to do this. It let us get to know the city a lot better and navigate it without much of a problem. I am not an expert by any means but I can at least travel the city without feeling like I will be swallowed up.

As of now, I am just writing this after my first day of classes. Not what I expected but I am really interested in the material. I have made some great friends so far and I can’t wait to experience the rest of the Scotland and this experience has to offer. Enjoy some photos of my travels so far.

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